Photo credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press
By Teresa Watanabe
University of California officials are proposing to include “anti-Zionism” as a form of discrimination that is unacceptable on campus, according to a long-awaited draft statement on intolerance released Tuesday.
The inclusion immediately drew sharply divergent reactions, with pro-Israel groups hailing it as a needed step to protect Jewish students from hostility and those supporting Palestinian rights criticizing it as a naked attempt to suppress criticism of the Jewish state.
Scholars were similarly divided over whether a statement meant to express the UC regents’ principles against intolerance should include Zionism — historically an international movement to establish a Jewish homeland and now viewed as the belief in Israel’s right to exist.
One letter signed by more than 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism, saying students need guidance on “when healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel’s right to exist.”
But another letter from more than 250 UC professors expressed fear that the proposed statement would restrict free speech and academic freedom to teach, debate and research about the complex and tumultuous history of Israel and the Zionist movement.
Judith Butler, a Berkeley professor of comparative literature who has written on Zionism, questioned who would define that term or decide what crossed the line into discriminatory speech.